7 powerful fundraising ideas for animal shelters and rescue groups

Written by
Rachel MillsWhite arrow icon

7 powerful fundraising ideas for animal shelters and rescue groups

About 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters every year, and every single one deserves a chance at a good life. To make it possible, your shelter needs an ongoing supply of pet food, pet supplies, and marketing and educational resources — not to mention the funds to pay your human nonprofit staff! You may also cover adoption fees to make it even easier to get more pets into safe and loving homes. 

We’re here to help! These 7 effective fundraising ideas for animal shelters will help you meet your budget and create some adoption opportunities at the same time.

1. Virtual tour 

Lincoln center dance studio GIF by New York City Ballet

Take your local community members on a digital exploration of your area’s most iconic — and sometimes overlooked — features. Hosting a virtual tour is a great way to expand your donor base beyond animal lovers. It’s also one of the best animal shelter fundraisers if you want to secure new business sponsorships.

Reach out to museums, theaters, bird and butterfly sanctuaries, historic homes, conservatories, and more. Another option is to give a behind-the-scenes look at different live attractions around town, like concert venues, drag show performances, and cocktail lounges. 

Use a camera or drone to pre-record the video footage. Later, add in short interviews with owners, curators, and local historians who can share interesting historical facts (and maybe a few little-known secrets). Live stream the event and raise money by selling all-access tour tickets

2. Family pet picture day

Paws and poses! Set up a family pet picture day, complete with a mini studio, to quickly raise your local shelter funds. 

Ask a well-reviewed photographer in your area to donate their time to take pictures of pets and owners. They can hand out their business cards to promote their services, and you can add their contact information to your fundraising campaign flyers.

Host it at a local park or nice indoor setting, and charge a small fee for each picture, such as $5 for a pet-only photo and $7 for a group picture. Alternatively, you can sell pet photo packages, with options to buy photo calendars, mugs, T-shirts, and more. You could even hold a dog wash and cat grooming event in the days leading up to picture day. 

The typical pet owner has plenty of pet snapshots on their smartphone, but professional photoshoots are decidedly more rare. So, this animal shelter fundraising idea is sure to stand out.

3. Pet yoga

Cat and woman doing yoga

Here’s a trendy, fun way to meet your yearly fundraising goal. Animal yoga, in which people do yoga with dogs, cats, goats, and more, is rising in popularity. People love it because they can pet or play with animals while they stretch and move. And dogs and cats love it because their only job is to look cute, lie down, and hang out for an hour or less. 

All you need to do is gather a group of your sociable, adoptable animals for a spot of relaxation. You can also have your human participants bring their pets along. See if a local yoga teacher will lead a class, and make sure they’re comfortable working with (or around) animals.

Yoga animal fundraisers tend to quickly raise a lot of money, partly because a single class could easily have 30 to 50 people. (The bigger your indoor or outdoor space, the more you can raise.) Plus, it’s a cinch to make this a virtual event. Simply live stream the class and have attendees do yoga with their furry friends at home. Downward-facing dog and cat-cow poses have never been more fitting!

4. Pet-friendly bake sale

Man’s best friends deserve tasty treats too. 

This campaign takes the tried-and-tested bake sale and transforms it into one of the best fundraising ideas for animal shelters.

Open a pet-friendly bake sale (or “barkery” if you’re only selling dog treats). Choose a location in a high-traffic area, or look for areas where you see lots of dog walks.

Bake and create from-scratch snacks, like these homemade peanut butter dog treats or these three-ingredient salmon cat treats. Another option is to request food donations from grocery stores and pet supply stores across town. We also like the idea of a bake-at-home kit. Sell cookie dough for pets and humans and include custom cookie cutters shaped like cats, dogs, bones, fish, and more.

Bring along some of your adoptable animals, and throw in traditional baked goods and tea or coffee to turn your bake sale into a mini animal cafe. People will pay to play with animals and feed them treats, and maybe even take them home. 

5. Tacocat Tuesday 

Lebron James Taco Tuesday GIF

“Tacocat” is a palindrome, which means it’s spelled the same way forwards and backwards. It’s also an internet phenomenon all on its own. Combine this running joke with Taco Tuesday, and this fundraising idea might just be too popular.

Kick off your first Tacocat Tuesday fundraising event at a local taco shop. Many restaurants are happy to participate in nonprofit campaigns, and they’ll often donate anywhere from 15-20% of the day’s proceeds back to your cause. You may have more luck with national brands like Chipotle, which will donate 33% to restaurant fundraisers. 

To support your campaign and encourage adoptions, have people vote on the best tacocat from a cast of cats and kittens. Give each contestant a fun bio and “favorite” taco (a Baja fish taco isn’t too far-fetched).

Another money-making idea? Make this your star attraction on Giving Tuesday, one of the most lucrative days of the fundraising year. Have your participants spread the word on social media — and maybe grab local press attention — with your own #TACOCAT hashtag. 

6. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is one of the most effective ways to raise money for your animal rescue group or animal shelter. Essentially, you collect small donations — often $1 to $100 — from large numbers of supporters. 

It works well because each individual can give an amount they’re comfortable with, removing the stress or pressure from giving. 

In addition, they have some outside motivation. Most crowdfunding campaigns award their donors with small prizes and incentives, depending on their donation amount. 

A crowdfunding page can be set up and running online in a few minutes and instantly accept donations. Even better, it’s one of the most affordable fundraising tools for nonprofit organizations. With most crowdfunding platforms, you’ll pay cents on the dollar to collect donations. But free fundraising platforms like Givebutter let your donors cover your payment processing costs so that your crowdfunding campaign is 100% free

7. Dog walkathon (and cat nap-a-thon)

Happy On My Way GIF By Butler University

Our next fundraising idea for animal shelters is directly inspired by the Champaign County Humane Society’s Mutt Strutt and Cat Nap, which raised over $20,000. In this event, pet owners walked with their dogs and napped with their cats to support their cause. The entire campaign was conducted virtually, so pet owners could participate wherever they were, whenever they were ready.

To maximize their fundraising opportunity, the Society used peer-to-peer fundraising. Instead of charging an entry fee, they had participants raise money from their network of family, friends, co-workers, and more to donate to the campaign. Finally, one-of-a-kind prizes and smart local business sponsorships made this event a success. A fundraising campaign with something for everyone is a powerful thing!

Unleash the power of fundraising with Givebutter

fundraising ideas for animal shelters: Woman holding a cat

A free, user-friendly fundraising platform like Givebutter makes it easy to create powerful campaigns for your animal shelter and stay organized year after year. Here’s why more than 15,000 nonprofits, businesses, schools, and sports teams choose us: 

It’s completely free to sign up and see if we’re a match for your shelter or animal rescue organization. 


Written By

Written by
Rachel Mills
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.